Category Archives: Paleoarchaeology

Fossilized Foot Sheds New Light on Evolution of Bipedalism

Paleoanthropologists have long looked to early hominids to answer questions about our own development and evolution. The most famous example is the Australopithecus Lucy, who roamed the African savannah more than 3 million years ago.

Recently, paleoanthropologists have uncovered a fossilized foot close to Lucy’s age but with details resembling an older species of proto-human, Ardi. The find provides scientists with new details and information on the evolution of bipedalism in humans.  To learn more about the discovery, see the article in Scientific American.

Top 10 Archaeological Discoveries of 2012

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 12.24.08 PMToday, Archaeology Magazine has rolled out its “Top 10 Discoveries of 2012.” The list includes (in no particular order):

Maya Sun God Mask

Neanderthal Medicine Chest

First Use of Poison

Aztec Ritual Burial

Caesar’s Gallic Outpost

Europe’s Oldest Engraving

The First Pots

Scottish “Frankenstein” Mummy

2,000 Year Old Stashed Treasure

Oldest Egyptian Funerary Boat

 

Archaeologists Argue That Fishhooks Were Used 42,000 Years Ago

Archaeologists are arguing that fishhooks, a microlithic tool technology, have been used by humans as early as 42,000 years ago. Archaeologists working in East Timor, within the island chain of Indonesia, have produced evidence that humans were using fish hook technology for deep sea fishing much earlier than thought.

To learn more about the findings, see the article on MSNBC.

Paleolithic “Art Studio” Found in South Africa

Archaeologists in South Africa have uncovered what they term an “art studio” dating to 100,000 years ago. Scientists in 2008 discovered a series of mixed ochre stored in abalone shells (used as a mixing or storage palate) in Blombos Cave. The findings were published in this month’s Science.

To learn more about this finding, see the article in Science (if you have a subscription), Scientific American, Fox News, BBC News, National Geographic, and Discovery News.

Cooking a Nearly Two Million Year Old Practice

Recent excavations and analysis of the molars of Homo erectus and Homo sapiens neanderthalensis suggest that human ancestors began cooking much earlier than originally thought. The introduction of culturally treating food (specifically cooking) directly correlates to smaller molar size in human beings (as thick enamel and wide chewing surfaces are no longer necessary).

Paleoanthropologists have suggested that the the decreasing size of molars in proto-humans suggests that our ancestors were cooking as early as two million years ago. The finding, however, is not without controversy as the connection with cooking also suggest other sophisticated tool use – specifically the control of fire.

“There isn’t a lot of good evidence for fire. That’s kind of controversial,” Organ said. “That’s one of the holes in this cooking hypothesis. If those species right then were cooking you should find evidence for hearths and fire pits.” (MSNBC)

These new findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. If you do not have a subscription to this esteemed article, you can read more about it in this article of Scientific American or at MSNBC.

New Fossils Provide Further Insight into the Domestication of Dogs

Dogs are the oldest and most universally domesticated animals on Earth. New studies of a 33,000 year old dog skull fossil have revealed new insight into the domestication of man’s best friend.

The newly discovered skull reveals that this species of dog (that went extinct during the last glacial period) was on the brink of full domestication just before they died out.

To learn more about the significance of this Russian find, see this article in National Geographic.

Paleoanthropologists Uncover 20 Million Year Old Hominid Fossil

A team of Ugandan and French Paleoanthropologists have uncovered the remains of a 20 million year old Hominid Fossil in Uganda. The find is especially important as the skull is nearly complete – a rarity in fossilized remains.

“This is the first time that the complete skull of an ape of this age has been found. It is a highly important fossil,” Martin Pickford, a paleontologist from the College de France in Paris, told a news conference.

The skull was identified as belonging to a Ugandapithecus Major, an early relative to the great apes that inhabited the region. The early ape had a skull roughly the size of a chimpanzee, a highly intelligent primate. To read more about the find, read one of the articles at Discovery News, MSNBC, Daily Mail, or BBC News.